I started my business in 2017 and immediately began collecting puzzle pieces – individual tools, software, and processors I “needed” to run my business. I collected a lot of puzzle pieces.
As a result, I wasted a lot of money and time trying to get the pieces to fit together, which wasn’t going to happen because the problem with puzzle pieces is that, alone, they are worthless.
While individual pieces look like they should fit somewhere, they don’t because for the puzzle pieces to work together, you need one critical component not typically sold with online puzzle pieces.
The picture on the box.
The picture on the box is the larger strategy; it’s how you know you’re doing things right.
I’ve lost track of all the different puzzle pieces I’ve tested and tried since launching my business, and the one thing I’ve learned – over and over again – is that simple is always best.
So, learn from my mistakes, and save yourself time and money by using these six critical tools to help you with lead generation, lead nurturing, sales, and fulfillment. As your business grows, you may need to change out a particular puzzle piece, but this list is what you need to get started.
The six essential tools
Your website is your online presence. It’s the one puzzle piece you should spend some time – not all of your time – working on. There are many different providers, and having worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years, I suggest starting and using WordPress. There is a learning curve, but your website will have the ability to grow with your business.
Other website builders claim they will grow with you too, at which time the cheap entry fee becomes an expense. Builders like Squarespace and Wix are really marketing companies who happen to make websites. WordPress was built to create websites. There is a difference.
Email Service provider
Don’t wait to start capturing email addresses for potential prospects. Your list will one day provide you with sales, so don’t neglect getting an email service provider (ESP). I’ve tried several, MailChimp, ConvertKit, Mailerlite, and ActiveCampaign. If you’re starting out, I’d recommend Mailerlite. It’s very intuitive and gives you the confidence you need to actually send emails.
I’ve used ScheduleOnce, Calendly, Book like a Boss, and another whose name escapes me (that’s how good it was). These calendar tools do the same thing; schedule sales calls with prospects and session calls with clients. Most have a free tier to get started.
It’s free. You pay a small transaction fee, but that’s the cost of doing business. It’s not worth spending time and effort trying to find another processor, believe me, I’ve tried. Everything integrates with Stripe making this puzzle piece plug-n-play.
I think I’ve tried them all; Quickbooks, Freshbooks, Wave, Xero, and now back to Quickbooks. Here’s the thing, you need accounting software. They all do the same things; some are more “accountant-based,” like Xero; pick the one you will use and stick with it until you reach a point where your business requires something more.
You need reliable video conferencing software if you’re running a consulting business. Since the pandemic, Zoom has become a verb for a good reason; it works. Trying to find an alternative to save a few bucks is maddening; I know I tried. Look at how many hours you need a month, pick a package that matches those hours and move on.
The picture on the box.
Each tool above is a puzzle piece. Here’s how the pieces fit together.
Prospects will visit your website to learn whether or not you can help. It’s also where they may download your lead gen (opt-in), so you capture their email address and then send them emails via your email service provider. Your site is also where prospects will be able to schedule a meeting with you via your calendar tool.
Once a prospect decides to become a client, they will pay you via Stripe, and you will record the payment into your accounting software. Use your calendar tool to schedule your first session and send a Zoom link so you can begin the fulfillment process.
Rinse and repeat.